Eventually we are just going to have to admit it. Aspen is better than Snowmass. The three-decade-old plan to prove our worth has failed. We may have forged our own identity during that time, but it doesn't matter. We have a face and name that nobody can put together.
It's time to put our emotional attachment aside. It doesn't matter how good the skiing is here. It doesn't matter about the hiking and biking. It barely matters that Amy Grant visits here now and then. We can't get out from under Aspen's shadow.
Of course I am talking about names here. "Snowmass Village" is a cumbersome name that doesn't fit. There's no cache to it. Think about this: If we don't like to write the name out on envelopes, why would we expect anybody to enjoy saying it out loud? It says a lot that our own town government is referred to as TOSV.
What do you think of when someone says "village"? I think of warm-lighted cottages packed tightly around a small square ringed by a church, a theater, maybe a bakery, the mayor's office, the general store, and the fire station. It's an idyllic vision, yes, but can anyone tell me what section of our "village" even remotely resembles this? How disappointing must it be for first-time visitors to find parts of our village scattered all over like it originally existed on another planet that collided with Earth right here, this close to Aspen? They must think, "Thank goodness it didn't destroy that beautiful town. Hey, we should drive in there for dinner."
"Snowmass Village" has a cheap connotation to it, too. If somebody says they are going to Aspen for a ski vacation, people usually respond with, "Wow!" If you have the nerve to admit that you are going to Snowmass Village for the holidays, you usually get a, "Oh, really. Did you pick up a package deal or something?"
Honestly, Beaver Creek is a very similar product to Snowmass, but they somehow got a reputation for being the ritzy resort. They had the advantage of witnessing Snowmass' struggles to separate itself from Aspen by using mostly words in ads. They saw how well that didn't work and decided to let money do the talking and made everything super expensive from the get go. Voila, their identity.
For all the marketing dollars we spend on surveys to find out what people think of us, I think we should send one out to loyal customers and ask them where they tell the neighbors they are going when they are throwing the ski bags into the back of the van on the way to the airport. I'm guessing nine out of 10 visitors to our town tell people they are going to Aspen, and the honest one says something generic like, "Colorado."
I'll admit it, when I travel I usually tell people that I live in Aspen. It's not that I'm embarrassed to say I'm from Snowmass Village, it just takes a lot of effort to explain that it's a small little town with great skiing about nine miles northwest of Aspen after they say, "Where?" Life's too short not to see someone's eyes light up after you tell them where you are from.
This all comes up because I, like you, read about the big discussion they had in TOSV council chambers last week about the best way to market this place. Somebody suggested that it is imperative that we incorporate "Aspen" into whatever plan we come up with, to which the rest of us not trained in marketing or politics say, "no duh," but over which politicians and marketers can spend hours debating and get nowhere.
I love living in Snowmass Village. For quality of life, I think it beats the heck out of Aspen in many regards. But, I'm not married to the name of our town. "Snowmass" was stolen from a peak you can't even see from town. Early developers didn't need much of a name to sell the dozen or so condos they had just constructed next to the new ski area. It was never intended to have any lasting value.
The people who really gave it some thought as things started progressing around here smartly came up with "Snowmass at Aspen" for our name. Maybe we should humbly reconsider changing back now that we are not so full of ourselves and in the summer our lodges aren't so full of anyone else.
Roger Marolt remembers when Snowmass was part of Aspen and everyone knew it. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.